¿¡Salud!? review

This is the last of the 3 films I have chosen to watch at the Tricontinental Film Festival and it is definitely the best. This film looks at the Cuban healthcare system which is the most advanced in the world. When I say advanced, I don’t mean that they have the most advanced machinery or technology. The healthcare system as a whole is the most advanced because every single person has access to whatever health care they need for free. In a country with limited resources such Cuba, this is a remarkable feat. It also explains why their life expectancy is higher and their infant mortality is lower than in the United States.

Cuba has about 60 000 qualified health care professionals. The highest number per capita of any country in the world. Cuban doctors work in the area in which they live so that they become part of the community. Every single area in Cuba has a clinic. Doctors are responsible for the health of the community, so there is a big emphasis on prevention. They visit the families at home and check on their diet and hygiene in order to prevent health problems from arising.

A big part of Cuba’s foreign policy is sending their doctors to work in other countries. These doctors go to other countries for 2 years and they go to the poorest areas of these countries. Often they go where the local doctors refuse to go and they will live in the area, not just commute there. It literally brought tears to my eyes when they interviewed people from poor rural areas. They have never had access to any medical care, if someone got sick, they died. They often died from preventable diseases. One man lost 3 children to diarrhea. Many left the clinic with tears in their eyes, not because they learnt they had a health problem but because they were so appreciative.

Many people were interviewed and a common theme became evident, that medical care is a necessity of life and should be a basic human right. Many countries are now setting up healthcare systems to cater for everyone. With the assistance of Cuba, this is happening in Venezuela, Gambia, Honduras, South Africa and other countries. Cuba is even training African Americans and Latinos from the USA who will return to the USA and service their own communities which are not serviced by America’s healthcare system because they are not wealthy enough.

We think the Cubans live in horrible conditions, but they were apalled by what they found in the countries they were sent to. They learned to appreciate that in Cuba they are very fortunate to have free healthcare, free education (highest literacy rate in the world), free water and food staples. It should be the responsibility of every government to provide these things as they are basic human rights. Cuba is an example to us in many ways, you can read about what they can teach us about the oil crisis here.

It makes one’s blood boil when one sees the World Bank telling countries like Honduras that they must privatise health care in order to secure aid, when privatised health care would exclude 80% of the population and make foreign companies rich (read Confessions of an Economic Hitman). That sort of thing is abominable. Capitalism and globalisation is not working for 80% of the world’s population. Something needs to be done about that.

This documentary is a must see, it really opens one’s eyes.